Most people are able to go out on the town whenever they feel like it. There are no set restrictions on when, where, or how they can travel. But for Alan Poole, the whole world is only five houses long.
On most days, you can find Alan riding his bike up and down a five-house stretch of his block in Erie, Pennsylvania. His bike is the most precious thing in the world to him, and when it was stolen, he was devastated.
Alan, who has autism and Down’s Syndrome, was clearly heartbroken. He fought back tears throughout his entire interview with a local news station, and when asked how much the bike meant to him, all he could say was, “I just really need my bike back.”
“I miss that bike. I miss it,” Alan said as he wiped tears from his eyes.
Alan’s plea to get his bike back failed to reach the party responsible for stealing it. The bike, which was taken from his mother’s backyard, was found several days later but was badly damaged.
To complicate matters, Alan’s bike wasn’t of the usual type. The bike that he would joyfully ride up and down the sidewalk on his street was a specially built therapy bike. With three wheels and custom modifications to make it safe for Alan to ride, replacing it was beyond the realm of possibility for his single mother.
While Alan spoke out of sadness, lamenting the bike that he’ll never get back, his mother Mary Mattern was angry. Feeling that a grave injustice had been committed against her son, and having no recourse to rectify the situation, she didn’t mince words.
“This is his life. Five houses, back and forth. This is his life. This is his whole existence. And how dare you come onto my property, in my back yard, and take the only thing he has,” Mattern said.
While Alan’s outpouring of emotion did little to sway the thief who stole his beloved bike, everyone else who saw the news broadcast was deeply moved. Shortly after the story aired on the evening news, the calls started pouring in. People wanted to help Alan and his mom purchase a new bike.
A YouCaring page to raise the necessary funds quickly reached its goal. Unbeknownst to Alan, a new bike was on its way. The initial goal was set at over $1,000, which Mattern considered ambitious. While the initial seed money was only a few hundred dollars, the donations swelled and the fundraiser was closed after more than doubling its goal.
The family friend who started the YouCaring page had effectively raised $2,620 for Alan to get a bike better than he could have ever dreamed of.
Mattern couldn’t believe the overwhelming support and compassion the community was showing for her special son.
“To see Alan happy again, it’s always good to see a story that starts so sad end on a good note,” said Eric Brink, the family friend who put together the fundraiser.
When reporters asked Alan what he thought of his new bike, he replied, “I’m so happy. I jumped.”
The surplus of money generated by the YouCaring campaign will be used to put a shed in the backyard so that Alan’s bike can’t be stolen again.
“They made him, they made him, they made us better people,” his grateful mother said.
“We didn’t realize that there were people out there that cared that much. I think, as far as Alan, he’s the happiest person in the world right now.”